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African American Treasures 2/6 Event


January 19, 2009

Kelly Robinson 404.730.1865

Auburn Avenue Research Library and the National Museum of African American History and Culture Bring “Treasures” to Atlanta February 6 for Black History Month

Atlanta – The Smithsonians National Museum of African American History and Culture, in collaboration with the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, celebrate Black History Month, co-hosting a daylong program, Save Our African American Treasures,” to help Atlanta-area residents identify and preserve items of historical and cultural significance tucked away in the attics, closets and basements of their homes. The event will feature presentations, hands-on activities and preservation tips.

The program will take place Saturday, February 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at the Auburn Avenue Research Library, a special library of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, 101 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, 30303, and will feature welcoming remarks by Lonnie Bunch, director of the museum; John Szabo, director of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System; and Francine I. Henderson, research library administrator of the Auburn Avenue Research Library.

This event is free and open to the public and is the sixth in a series from the National Museum’s signature program, “Save our African American Treasures: A National Collections Initiative of Discovery and Preservation.”

Participants can reserve in advance to bring up to three personal items for a 20-minute, one-on-one professional consultation with experts on how to care for them. The specialists will serve as reviewers, not appraisers, and will not determine items’ monetary values. Objects such as books, paper and textiles no larger than a shopping bag (furniture, carpets, firearms and paintings are excluded) can be reviewed.

Those wishing to have items reviewed must make reservations by e-mailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by calling toll free (877) 733-9599. Reservations are not required for those not wishing a one-on-one consultation. Additional information is available at nmaahc.si.edu and www.afpls.org.  

More than 150 people brought family objects to the first “Treasures” event held in Chicago in January 2008. In the crowd was Patricia Heaston of Chicago, who brought a white, sleeping-car porter’s cap and a gold-colored pin bearing the image of an African American woman. She learned that the white cap was rare (most caps were black or blue), and its color meant that its owner had tended to prominent travelers (perhaps even Presidents) on a private train car. The image on the pin was that of Madame C.J. Walker (1867-1919), the first African American female self-made millionaire. The pin was probably given as a prize to successful sales agents of Walker’s hair-care products. Nearly 100 people attended the “Treasures” event in July 2008 in Los Angeles.

“We are very excited to bring “Treasures to Atlanta during Black History Month,” said Bunch “We must encourage private citizens to become aware of what they have, to protect it and to preserve it so the story of the African American in this country can be told. Private citizens hold the 19th- and 20th-century objects—family photographs, military uniforms, farm tools and wedding dresses—that can help tell this story for future generations. If we do not act now to preserve these items, the tangible evidence of a critical component of American history will be lost.”

“When the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History was invited to host the “Treasures program we were elated,” said Henderson. “I am confident that its unique and rich resources and services will help create an ideal environment for treasure keepers to learn more about the preservation and care of some of Americas valued manuscripts, documents and artifacts.”

Future events will be held in New Orleans and New York. “Treasures” has been made possible by a grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. Its $1 million grant to the museum also supports the pre-design and construction of the museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., scheduled to open in 2015.
The “Treasures” program includes the following sessions:

Preservation Presentations: Four informal basic preservation sessions will take place during the day. One will focus on textiles, a category that includes cloth dolls, flags, hats, clothing, lace, quilts, needlework and table linens. The session on photographs and paper will inform participants on simple inexpensive techniques to keep their family Bibles, historic pictures and important documents such as diplomas and wedding licenses safe from deterioration. A third session of the day explains to potential donors the process of establishing provenance of an object. Participants will learn what is needed to establish and document the age, place of origin and line of ownership of objects with historical value. During the fourth session participants will receive tips and resources for recording and archiving their familys oral history.

Hands-on Preservation: Participants are invited to learn how to properly store letters, pack garments and prepare photographs for preservation storage and presentation.

Oral Histories: Participants may record a brief personal memory, a family story or a memory of a historical event. Family members are encouraged to interview each other.

As a companion to the series, the museum has produced “African American Treasures: A Preservation Guide,” a 30-page guidebook that is distributed free to attendees at the program and to individuals, community groups and educators to highlight the importance of proper preservation techniques. The guidebook is part of the “Treasures” kit. Also distributed will be white cotton gloves, archival tissue papers and archival documents sleeves to help people keep their personal treasures safe.

For more information and to make reservations, please call toll-free (877) 733-9599. For information about the Auburn Avenue Research Library, please call 404-730-4001 ext. 210.